SCOOP: This #AcWriMo, Celebrate Writing by Supporting Those Whose Words Are Missing/
November 05, 2020
In the US, November hosts a wide array of “national months,” of which the most famous is probably National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Every year, over 400,000 creative writers commit to composing a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. Though NaNoWriMo has entered the national consciousness, many researchers remain unaware that November is also Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). While “Oh, I’m drafting the conclusion to a comparative analysis of martyrdom themes in representations of Fatima and Husayn in 19th-century Persian drama,” doesn’t have quite the same Thanksgiving table caché as, “Yeah, I’m just putting the finishing touches on my novel…,” AcWriMo offers a valuable incentive to keep writing in trying times and to help our colleagues to keep writing, too.
Opportunities and Challenges
When the slow- and shutdowns attending COVID containment measures began, many editors expected a decline in submissions compared to previous years. Instead, submissions came in faster than ever before. While this might have been hoped for (if not expected) in fields directly related to coronavirus research, the surge of submissions caught editors in other fields off guard, especially given the decreased availability of reviewers and other limitations on the publishing pipeline. As a result, the pandemic has been a positive disruptor to many editorial processes. The role of preprints has greatly expanded, review times have (sometimes) shortened, the value of openness has been highlighted, and new tools for data sharing and verification have been deployed. As has been sagely observed, many of these changes have been years in the making, but 2020 has been the catalyst.
While journal submission rates by men have grown by as much as 50% at some publications in 2020, however, women were submitting an average of 14% less after ten weeks of lockdown in the United States, and the ensuing months have done little to reverse this trend, which reflects broader pressures forcing women out of the workforce across multiple sectors. The result in the immediate term is a risk to the availability of sex-disaggregated data and analysis on COVID-19 treatment and prevention (paralleling other inequities in medical research). In the long-term, there is a risk of enduring damage to the career prospects of women researchers and academics in all disciplines, with cascading effects across the whole research and higher ed landscape. Just as we might hope that some of the positive changes will endure post-pandemic, there is cause for concern that inequities and disparities exacerbated by the pandemic will continue to intensify after their immediate catalyst has passed.
Doing Our Part
Decreased submissions from women authors are one of the most visible signs of 2020’s differential impact on the academic writing community, but certainly not the only one. Just like the NaNoWriMo writing groups that, in happier times, met in coffee shops but now determinedly meet on Zoom, we have to support and encourage each other to the end of November and beyond. Each of us offers support in different ways, depending on our circumstances and our spheres of influence. If you are writing during this AcWriMo, keep writing. Whether your work directly addresses COVID and the many societal issues it has exacerbated or simply keeps hope alive by reminding us all of the resilience of the human spirit in the quest for knowledge, your voice is needed. Perhaps even more importantly, however, keep an ear out for the keyboards of friends and colleagues whose familiar clitter-clatter has grown slow or silent. Ask how you can help and offer a shoulder to lift a burden where you can.
For our part, Atla Open Press remains committed to providing venues for writers at the intersection of librarianship and religious and theological studies. Theological Librarianship is recruiting contributions to its upcoming spring issue, including a special forum on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and also seeks to diversify its pool of reviewers. Theology Cataloging Bulletin is open for submissions and seeking input from readers (and potential readers) on how it can expand its coverage to better serve the technical services community. Books@Atla Open Press — which just released the first volume in its new series, Women in Religion — welcomes proposals for monographs and edited collections.
We are a small part of the scholarly communication ecosystem, but we are proud of our efforts to be part of the solution(s), and we are grateful, not just for your manuscripts, but for your input on how we can better support you — our friends and colleagues — during Academic Writing Month and every month.
- Though written before the pandemic, Dr. Academic Batgirl’s advice on writing without solitude, being an authentic colleague, and doing AcWriMo anyway has all taken on a new kind of timelessness.
- Helen Kara’s twelve tips for writing while distracted were written with the pandemic in view and are also very helpful.
- Kreeger et al. offer ten rules for women PIs during a pandemic, which include many ideas that can help anyone to recognize intersectional dimensions of writing/productivity disparities, amplify marginalized voices, and forge community.
- Need some ideas to jumpstart your academic writing? Check out these alternatives to #NANOWRIMO for academic and non-fiction writers.
The SCOOP, Scholarly COmmunication and Open Publishing, is a monthly column published to inform Atla members of recent developments, new resources, or interesting stories from the realm of scholarly communication and open access publishing.
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